By Ellen Fike and Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
After a California woman was rescued last week in Washington after falling headfirst into an outhouse trying to retrieve her phone, Wyoming park officials are warning residents and tourists from attempting the same.
The woman, who was reportedly in her 40s, fell into a vault toilet after dropping her phone down it. She at first tried taking apart the outhouse. When she tried lowering herself into the vault with a dog leash, she plummeted through the structure.
Gary Schoene, spokesman for the Wyoming Division of Parks and Cultural Resources, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that visitors are advised against reaching down to try to retrieve a phone if it does fall into an outhouse toilet, due to the possibility of injury and the potential for dangerous noxious gases in the vault.
“While rare, we have received reports from several parks over the years,” Schoene said. “First and foremost, people should contact the respective park staff if they should drop their phone in the toilet.”
“We advise folks not to reach down or try to retrieve the phone themselves because of the potential for dangerous noxious gases in the vault,” he said. “Superintendent Chris Delay of Guernsey reports that he has retrieved two phones in the last couple years.”
Delay did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for additional comment on Tuesday.
Schoene added that Glendo State Park staff reported seeing one or two phones dropped in the outhouse toilets that were not retrieved.
“In one instance, the person told park staff, ‘That’s what I have insurance for,'” he said.
Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said he lost his iPhone in an outhouse nearly four years ago — fumbling it after being startled by the hoot of an owl.
Although he immediately regretted the loss, he said it never crossed his mind to attempt a retrieval.
“Are you kidding me?” Ulrich said. “I never wanted to see that phone again. The outhouse gods could have it.
“I would seriously debate whether I would I retrieve one of my own children, let alone a cell phone,” he added.
Out of curiosity, Ulrich said he used his son’s phone hours after the incident to see if his was still operational.
“You gotta credit Apple,” he said. “At the bottom of an outhouse — which probably hadn’t been emptied since the 1940s — and it was still working. God bless America.”
While the California woman made headlines for her attempt to retrieve her cell phone, her situation is not necessarily unique. Multiple online forums cover what a person should do with a phone dropped into a port-a-potty or outhouse.
“I think you shouldn’t have your phone in your hand while using the toilet. Concentrate on one thing at a time,” one commenter wrote.
“I don’t know about you, but in my mind there’s no choice. Money don’t grow on trees any more. I’m diving in after that sucker and I’m not coming up until I find it!” another said.
“You can clean that phone as many times as you want but you’ll never forget the moment you fished that phone off the top of a pile of urine, toilet paper and dung, every time you so much as touch that thing,” an additional poster said.
Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Doug McGee told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that under no circumstances should anyone reach into an outhouse. WYDOT manages an outhouse at Mule Creek Junction, but contracts out its janitorial services.
“My advice would be to contact a local WYDOT office and we’ll do our best to work with the contractor to retrieve the device,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for people to call and say they’ve lost things or left them behind, but in my 21 years of working in the public affairs office at WYDOT, I’ve never heard of anyone dropping something down the outhouse.”